Lynn Wright fails to make finalist cut for LCSD superintendent

November 9, 2019 6:17:16 PM

Zack Plair - [email protected]


Lynn Wright's tenure as Lowndes County School District superintendent will end Dec. 31.


Multiple sources with direct knowledge of the district's superintendent search, who asked not to be named, confirmed to The Dispatch that Wright was not among the three finalists the school board selected during an executive session of its Friday afternoon meeting. He was one of six semifinalists the board interviewed last week.


Wright was twice elected superintendent by public vote, having served since 2011. Before that he was principal at New Hope High School.



A state law that allowed public school districts to choose whether to appoint or elect superintendents changed in 2016, making it mandatory for school boards to appoint that position. LCSD's first board-appointed superintendent will start work in January.


When contacted by The Dispatch after the meeting, Wright would not comment on the record.


LCSD board president Robert Barksdale confirmed to The Dispatch after Friday's meeting the field had been narrowed to three finalists, but he would not identify them.


"It's not fair to the ones who didn't get it for us (to publicly announce the finalists) before they're notified," Barksdale said.


Barksdale added the board does not intend to publicly name any of the candidates beyond the one ultimately hired.


The board plans to interview the finalists for the position during an executive session at 5:30 p.m. Tuesday at Central Office. LCSD board attorney Jeff Smith previously told The Dispatch the meeting would be a "limited public forum," where 15 board-selected citizens -- three residents from each school board district -- will ask the finalists questions and offer the board feedback.


No other members of the public will be admitted to the interviews.


State law allows a public body to meet in executive session for personnel matters, but the statute does not speak to "limited public forums," such as the one planned for Tuesday, where select members of the public are admitted while others are not.


LCSD hired Mississippi School Boards Association to assist with the superintendent search. Tommye Henderson, superintendent search consultant with MSBA, previously told The Dispatch that while some districts she's worked with over the past two-plus years have opted not to have forums at all, any districts that did host them opened them entirely to the public.


The new superintendent will take on a district that gained an A accountability rating this fall from the Mississippi Department of Education -- a rating based, in large part, on student performance on state benchmark tests. But the district has also struggled with deficit spending in recent years, winnowing its once $17 million general fund operating balance to roughly $4 million in just five years.


In other business Friday, the board removed the interim tags from four administrative positions, effective Jan. 1. That includes Susan McClelland, director for the Career Tech Center; Christy Adams, curriculum coordinator; Wes Carlisle, New Hope Elementary principal; and Ashley Matthews, Caledonia Elementary assistant principal.


All were made interims at those positions in August with those roles set to expire out Dec. 31. Carlisle, Adams and McClelland were already employed in other positions with the district, and if the board had not made their interim roles permanent, they would have reverted to their previous positions in January.


McClelland was hired as interim director for CTC despite the district receiving 34 applications for the job, leading to allegations Wright was trying to hold that job open for himself if he wasn't appointed superintendent.


On Friday, though, Wright recommended making the CTC job, and the other three, permanent. In McClelland's case in particular, he explained to the board, the state reimburses the district 100 percent for the director's salary unless the director is an interim. The deadline to change McClelland's status and receive that reimbursement was Dec. 6.


Zack Plair is the managing editor for The Dispatch.